I started the day with that great road trip anticipation as I stumbled around the house making sure all my stuff was organized. I hit the road at 5:15. About an hour into it going through Hartford I was starting to feel just a little like I had not gotten enough sleep. So I switched from 84 to 6 just West of Hartford. Finally hit a convenience store. A cup of black coffee, two bottles of Mountain Dew, two Kit-kats and a Dark Milky Way. Just having that shit in your car will prevent you from dozing off. I asked the clerk what town we were in - Bristol.
I started thinking that all these towns and cities I was passing through must have had boys in Virginia that they worrying about 150 years ago. They are commemorated by monuments of greater or lesser grandiosity, probably an index of relative prosperity in the post war period.
Garmon was telling me to go to the George Washington Bridge. Fuck that shit. I crossed the Tappan Zee but had to trust the Garmon from there as I was headed to the Seacaucus Junction Train Station where I was meeting my travel companion Alan Jacobs. That was the first crazy spontaneity of the trip, if you don't count the craziness of a tax geek taking off on April 7.
The way it happened was that I posted to Facebook about the trip and Alan commented "Can I come?". In context, it was pretty clear that he was kidding, but then I thought. Why the hell not?
Well the reason that a sane person would give is that, in reality, Alan and I don't know one another that well. There was a little back and forth in which I assured him that he could bail at any time without my feelings being hurt and that if non-stop Civil War for four solid days was too much he could just drop me at the site and tool around the countryside in my car.
Alan is about the coolest person that I know. We talked about our youth as we were going through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. It was pretty much across on 78 and down on 81.
I grew up in Fariview NJ and Alan grew up in Palisades Park. Neither town had a high school so they fed Cliffside Park High School. Alan is exactly six months older than me. My birthday is half birthday and visa versa. That put him a year ahead of me in school.
And of course I did not actually go to CPHS. Like many of my classmates from St. John the Baptist elementary school I went to a Catholic High School, but rather a special one. It was one of the five Jesuit high schools in the metro New York area and one of only two Jesuit high schools that had Junior ROTC (the other one is in New Orleans). So I was commuting to a high school in Manhattan, just north of Greenwich Village, in a military uniform everyday. One of the nicknames of Xavier students was "subway commandos".
We had to get our hair cut every week. There was this Brazilian barber in the Port Authority bus terminal that charged two bucks. Anyway. It's 1968. Time to be a hippie. And here I am looking like the ultimate anti-hippie.
Alan on the other hand was the epitome of hippiedom, at least in the narrow space that I moved in. But how did we ever connect? He starred in a school play and not some bullshit musical a real play - Rhinoceros by Ionesco. Weird alternative shit. And wrote ironic poems. How in the world did we ever connect?
Not all the St. Johns kids went to Catholic schools. Quite a few took ninth grade at Lincoln School in Fairview and then went to CPHS. Among the latter was Bobby Einhorn. Bobby and I were both bright boys and we spent a good amount of time together. It was an odd thing that there would be this variety of groups of kids that you would be a member of based on geography and activities. I can't remember Einhorn being an altar boy or a Boy Scout or even playing Little League (although I think the latter is likely). His parents let him have the run of their finished basement and I remember spending a good amount of time there.
We kept our connection in high school and he was my conduit to the alternative. We used to go to the basement and listen to the Mothers of Invention. There was a classic garage band called the Get Some Soon, although none of them seemed to have a garage. Einhorn was lead guitar and Alex Dallesandro, part of the Roosevelt street crown, that I had kind of associate status in, was the drummer forget the other two guitar players. I was their friend who had a tape recorder.
So I spent a bit of time hanging with Alan, despite my absurd haircut, because Einhorn vouched for me.
So the road trip to Appomattox was mainly reminiscing about growing up in New Jersey, which accounts for this post going up late and unfinished, but it is an important part of the story.
In the photo above Abraham Lincoln gets to meet the coolest kid in Southern Bergen County from the sixties.